BerlinIt is a moving occasion to share this platform with two men who have been an inspiration to me for most of my political life. I went with George and Helmut through the Cold War; I admired their actions in the formation of the European Union and the strengthening of the Atlantic Alliance, and their reaction to the redistribution of the center of gravity of the world’s power centers towards formerly colonial regions. It has been an honor to be their contemporary. Never before has an international order included all the continents. Nor, until now, was it possible to view events across the world in real time. Modern weapons make war between major powers - especially nuclear powers - all but unthinkable. But at the same time, they have created possibilities for disturbances of international order by non-state groups whose primary purpose is the propagation of chaos.
Such times call for guides to lead us through their complexities. What qualities are required for such leadership? They are, above all, character and courage. Character, because the turmoil of our period presents itself in ambiguous form. With the pros and cons of major decisions very close - often „51-49” - it requires strength of character to make the choice, and courage to help lead a society, in the face of opposition from those wedded to the more familiar, from where it is to where it has never been.
In my memoirs, I wrote that there was no position in government for which George Shultz would not be my first choice. No other public figure has held so many positions of trust: Secretary of Labor, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of State. His resolve steadied the nation in challenging times. His optimism and vision gave our society the confidence to face the tasks ahead of it.
George Shultz served as Secretary of State when the security policy of deterrence was based on the doctrine of mutual assured destruction. Its basic tenet was that the total vulnerability of a country’s own population represented the ultimate deterrent. But a mutual suicide pact could not be sustained as the permanent principle of international order, even less so in a time when nuclear weapons spread to ever more countries. George Schultz was one of the first leaders to articulate this as a matter of American policy. At Reykjavik, he and President Reagan put forward a sweeping plan to overcome the existential threat to civilization posed by nuclear weapons. Ahead of its time then, its basic objectives have given impetus to governmental and private initiatives ever since, several of them under George Schultz’s leadership.